Solutions for Change

A conversation with Karina Martinez, a recovering addict who is an alumna of and a volunteer coordinator for Solutions for Change, a “full-service leadership development residential program for the homeless in the country,” according to their website.

I’m originally from Oceanside, California. I grew up in a healthy family. My dad drank a lot. I see now with clear eyes how that affected my mom, but as a child, I didn’t. So my mom and dad were married and they had a house and I had a place to live. I was the oldest of four. Now that I’m older I know that my dad’s drinking is definitely what put a strain on my family’s relationship. So my parents divorced when I was 10. I didn’t really know how to process that because it was a big change. They had custody battles over us and battles over who was getting the house and what. My mom and dad ended up getting into new relationships, those relationships had kids. 

So it was a lot of change that I felt like I just did not understand. My dad ended up having his family move into our house, and I had a cousin, who had introduced me to drinking when I was 10 years old. I loved the feeling of the disconnection, and I carried that with me. And getting into senior year, rather than looking at what my career would be, I had this more rebellious attitude. I wanted to go to a party, and I wanted to move out of my mom’s. 

I moved out with some friends right after high school and, with that, was more partying. We moved into a neighborhood in Oceanside. I was very gang-related, and I ended up hanging out at a party with some of those people and I got introduced to crystal meth. I just continuously always say the lack of education is really what can alter someone, if it is not generational, where you haven’t seen your parents do it. It’s that lack of knowledge. I really didn’t know how homeless people got to where they were. I justified my drinking and getting high because I had a place of my own with roommates, and I was working so I thought I wasn’t doing any harm. I encountered another guy during a drug transaction and in the midst of that meeting, I ended up getting pregnant by him. I didn’t really know him or his background. I was 20 at the time. 

And you know that that was big news, ‘I’m pregnant and I barely know you.’ But I guess we had to make this family so we ended up getting an apartment together. As soon as we had our first daughter, we both relapsed. With that relapse came really bad domestic violence. That was also super new to me. I never witnessed my dad hitting my mom. So when that starts happening, it definitely shakes your world. I was kind of going through this confusion. I was a first time mom, so I’m trying to be this great mom. And then I’m trying to work. But I’m also trying to make this guy happy who was really, really violent towards me. And at the end of the day, I’m still getting high. So it was this crazy cycle. And it caused me to really isolate from my family, and I didn’t know where to get help. I had a lot of shame. 

The violence was getting worse and worse as well as the addiction. I got pregnant by him back to back to back. It is a lack of self-care. My kids are born 2010, 2012, and 2014. Now I have three kids with him and the way my cycle worked back then was I would get pregnant, get clean, have the baby, get high, get pregnant, get clean. It was just like a crazy cycle. And after our third son was born, their dad finally left the state. He just was sick; he’s an addict too. So he left California, and I thought that I would be free, but I was never honest with myself that I was an addict too and that also I had issues. I put my kids through a lot of trauma of them witnessing their dad do that stuff. And so when we got into the new apartment, me and my kids, I quickly jumped into another relationship. 

It’s like that feeling of wanting to be loved. And that’s that codependency piece. You want to help somebody and be with somebody. And so with that next relationship he used and you know, today I know, if you’re gonna be with someone that’s gonna use, you’re gonna relapse. So I relapsed with him. And with this relapse, everything spiraled even faster; it was more domestic violence. He was trashing our home. He was stealing from us, and my kids grew up on survival mode. It was like grab my mom’s purse or my son trying to help me get out of this fight. It was just ugly, and they were little. My mom ended up picking up my kids one day and telling me that she was going to take them to a birthday party. I didn’t think much of it. The next day, when I asked her where my kids were, she told me she wasn’t going to bring them back to me. 

It totally crushed me. To wake up and have your kids one day, and not have them the next is crazy. At that point, I just gave up. I felt like I didn’t have a purpose anymore. I stopped going to work. I stopped paying my bills. And I continued to get high. It was very shortly after that they padlocked my apartment, and I found myself living in a tent in Oceanside. I never would have thought that I’d end up living out there. I was out there for five years living in the canyon. Homelessness is another addiction in itself, because the lifestyle is addicting. It’s like a facade, because you think you’re kind of free. My focus was just staying high. I met a lot of people out there that were also moms and dads and brothers and sisters. I would ask them, ‘Have you seen your kids?’ And they had told me they hadn’t seen their kids in 20 years, and it would freak me out. I missed my kids terribly. But I truly thought there was no way out of this and that I would just have to be like this forever. 

I started getting stuck in the cycle of being incarcerated. I was getting these charges and right when I would get out of jail, it was just back to nothing, so I was like, now I’m gonna get high. In 2019, I met somebody else out there. And it was also violent, but by this time, I was also very violent too, because of everything I’ve been through. I’m ready to fight now. Upon getting arrested, I found out I was pregnant. That’s when it really dawned over me that the last thing that I lost was myself, because rather than thinking, ‘Okay, well now I have to get clean,’ I was more upset. I did not stop. I manipulated my pregnancy so I could get food. But I’ll tell you, that baby was not going away. Every time I would get high, the baby inside would kick and kick. When that would happen, it would kick like some sense into me and I would feel, again, an instant shame and ugliness. It was not until, truly, a higher power greater than myself. In my life, that’s God. It’s the only way I can explain that. There was a day that I said, ‘I’m leaving. I’m going to get help.’ 

I heard about help from other girls who had been helped before. They said there’s a program and if you get there in time, you can probably keep your baby; otherwise, if you have your baby out here and in this condition, they’re going to take that baby from you as soon as that baby’s born.

It would have killed me to lose another kid. I didn’t want that pain anymore. I already lost three. So I went to a short-term program to get clean and I didn’t make it the first time because I really wanted to find her dad. There’s that codependency again.

I found out I was six months pregnant. I was there in just enough time to get a little bit of prenatal work, and I found out that I was having a girl, and she was born on Valentine’s Day, which is just a coincidence to me because she brought the love back into my life. She brought love back into me. She brought me back to life instantly. In May of 2020 I went to Solutions, that was when I started having visits from my other kids. Me and my kids really were able to make amends, and it wasn’t easy. It’s still not, you know, I’m still in the process, and I remind myself every day, but I’m very grateful. I graduated in 2022 and have been working for Solutions for three years. I’ve been in recovery for four years now and just started college. So that’s my story.

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